POWHATAN – After almost three years of work and review, the Powhatan County Board of Supervisors last week finished its update of the 2010 Long-Range Comprehensive Plan with a few last-minute changes.

During its meeting on Monday, June 24, the board voted 3-1 in favor of adopting the 2019 Long-Range Comprehensive Plan, which establishes a vision of what the county should look like in 20 to 30 years. Chairwoman Angie Cabell, who represents District 3, Bill Melton, District 4, and Carson Tucker, District 5, voted in favor of the comp plan. David Williams, District 1, voted against it and Larry Nordvig was absent.

Little discussion was held on the bulk of the comprehensive plan, which has been the subject of many meetings and workshops by both the planning commission and board of supervisors, as well as other special committees. Dialogue instead focused on two changes being proposed as a result of comments made by local residents since the board last discussed the comp plan.

Two open houses were organized in June to solicit feedback from members of the public and about 20 people were in attendance, planning director Andrew Pompei said. The comments, which were in the board’s packet, overwhelmingly said those residents do not want high density housing in the county or changes to the then-current comp plan.

The county also received comments from two landowners in or near the Village area about how their parcels are designated on the Future Land Use Map that is included in the comprehensive plan, he said. At the request of some board members, he presented what those changes would be.

* The first area was 26.2 acres between Powhatan Elementary School and the joint transportation facility. In the 2010 plan, the land was designated as Village Center, but that was changed to Commerce Center in the draft plan presented by the planning commission in 2017. The land owner asked that it be turned back into Village Center.

* The second area was 46 acres on the east side of Rocky Ford Road just south of Route 13. In 2010, it was designated as Low Density Residential, which is one unit per 2 acres. In the draft at least as far back as November 2018, it was changed to Rural Preservation, which is one unit per 10 acres. The landowner requested it be changed to Rural Residential, which is one unit per 5 acres.

Only two of the board members spoke about these changes before the vote: Melton was for passing the comp plan with these changes included and Williams against it.

Williams immediately voiced his displeasure with the introduction of the changes, saying the board was once again doing so after the public meetings. He said the process is “flawed” since not everyone who brought a requested change to the county had their needs met. Additionally, he raised issue with citizens not being able to see what changes were being considered since there was no map on display at the meeting.

“The people aren’t even seeing what is being considered to be voted on yet again. This shouldn’t be happening,” he said.

He reiterated his position after the public hearing, talking again about the county’s ratio of 92 percent residential to 8 percent commercial.

He also talked extensively about the county’s finite water resources, saying there is not enough planning being done for future needs. The county is dependent on Chesterfield County for its water, which currently allows up to 572,000 gallons per day. However, with a good portion of that already allotted and two large residential communities coming up for review, he is concerned about the county exceeding its water needs.

He also pointed out the issues with increasing the traffic because of more residential development on busy roads.

Melton said the 2019 Comprehensive Plan is consistent with the board’s vision statement, pointing to lines such as “provide diverse housing options to complement the single-family uses that will continue to be prevalent in rural areas.”

He also pointed to the goal of making sure the county has a land use pattern dominated by preserved rural character and pointed out that the updated comprehensive plan went from having 92.5 percent rural areas (the version presented by the planning commission in 2017) to 95 percent. The other 5 percent is growth areas.

This version of the comprehensive plan also meets the goal to have a “diverse range of housing that provides living opportunities for residents at all stages of their life.”

Public hearing

Six people spoke during the public hearing held about the comprehensive plan.

* Victoria Ronau said she was shocked to see the board introducing changes without the public’s knowledge. She said she and many other citizens want to wait for economic opportunity and have “quality, not quantity, residential.”

“The citizens would rather focus on paying off the large percentage of debt that was put upon us than to compound it with the residential infrastructure changes that you are proposing,” she said.

She also specifically raised issue with the county exceeding its water supply and the financial impacts and strain on the infrastructure of emphasizing residential over commercial.

* Two employees spoke from Walton, which owns or manages 74 acres on the south side of Anderson Highway in the Route 60 Corridor East that was Village Residential in the 2010 plan but was changed to Economic Opportunity in the current draft. Edward Fleming said the company sees this property “as somewhere where you can have a high-quality, low-density master plan that would allow for a residential community.” But the comprehensive plan, which is supposed to be a broad swath “has really turned into, unfortunately, drawing lines based on parcel lines. And that is not the philosophy you should take.” Doing that makes the board vulnerable to accusations they do things for some landowners but not others.

“You have put me in a position where we are being treated differently than other landowners, and that’s unfortunate. My ability to develop this property actually is being taken away from us,” he said, urging the board not to adopt the plan as is.

Adam Morman, also with Walton, said he was surprised to hear of two properties being changed the day of the vote. His company’s plan has been going through the county process for more than a year and has seen its property change along the way a few times. He said he hoped the board would consider a request to change it back to Village Residential or Village Center even if they decided to put limits on the allowed mix.

* Kathryn Waycaster said the question before the county is how to manage growth in a way that retains Powhatan’s rural character while providing diverse housing options in a fiscally responsible manner to our senior citizens, young folks, and those who want to live in Powhatan without the responsibility of maintaining property. She said the 2019 Comprehensive Plan is a well-thought out plan that increases the county’s rural acreage and smartly designates areas where there is existing infrastructure for a diverse range of housing options, economic opportunities, and commerce. Having growth areas the way they are designated in the plan provides a “balance of business and residential uses in a fiscally sustainable manner” and reduces traffic in the county. The plan represents a middle ground and is a “thoughtful way forward for development in our county.”

* Jim Carver said he is a proponent of returning the comprehensive plan to the preUDA requirements. He also supported the suggested change to the 26.2-acre property.

* Mike Asip also supported the comprehensive plan passing that night because it balances the need to maintain rural character while allowing growth in clusters around the county to support economic growth. However, he suggested the board pass the plan as it currently is and then consider whether to amend it to include the changes proposed at that meeting.

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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